New York | Tiafoe leads the American charge

It is no doubt fitting that on the eve of America’s Labor Day, three home players should advance into the men’s quarter finals of the country’s only major – the US Open, the fourth and final Grand Slam of the season – for the first time since 2005.

I realized (in Melbourne) how important it is to believe in myself. That I can go the full way emotionally and physically and now I have that belief here.” Ben Shelton

And with Frances Tiafoe, a semi-finalist at Flushing Meadow last year when he lost to eventual champion Carlos Alcaraz in five sets, and 20-year-old Ben Shelton, the youngest American player to reach the last eight since Andy Roddick in 2002, now facing each other for the first time, a home player is guaranteed a semi-final place for a second consecutive year.

Tiafoe, seeded 10, required just two hours to dispatch the Aussie wildcard Rinky Hijikata 6-4 6-1 6-4 to record his best run at a Grand Slam this year, but it took Shelton an extra 49-minutes to get past his higher ranked compatriot Tommy Paul, the 14th seed, 6-4 6-3 4-6 6-4 thereby avenging the quarter final loss he suffered against him at this year’s Australian Open.


Ben Shelton learned from his Melbourne experience

(Photo by Frey/TPN/Getty Images)

“I learned to be mentally tough,” Shelton said of Melbourne. “When I was playing in Australia after a long week, I was looking at my box saying ‘My legs are dead, I am tired, I can’t go anymore’. I realized how important it is to believe in myself. That I can go the full way emotionally and physically and now I have that belief here.”

Shelton led 4-1 in the third before Paul got back into contention with five straight games but Shelton held his nerve to break back and claim the victory and the last eight spot.

Meanwhile Tiafoe, on learning of his next opponent, commented: “He is ‘Bugs Bunny’. He has got crazy energy, great energy and he is going to come after me and I am going to come after him.

“It is going to be a great battle and we are going to compete really hard. It will be in the big house and I plan to be in the semis.”


Taylor Fritz has a tough hurdle to clear

(Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images)

The ninth seeded Taylor Fritz became the third American male to reach the quarter finals following a straight sets win over Swiss qualifier Dominic Stricker, world ranked 128.

He defeated the 21-year-old 7-6(2) 6-4 6-4 requiring two hours, 13-minutes to achieve his objective of facing the second seed and one of the title favourites, Novak Djokovic, for a semi-final place – a player he has yet to get the better of in seven previous meetings.

“I’m really happy. I feel like from the ground I’ve been playing good tennis all week,” said Fritz on reaching the last eight for the first time at the Big Apple. “Then I feel like in the second and third sets today, serve started coming together. I feel like how I closed out the match, the last two sets, I feel like my serve started feeling the best it’s felt.”

And looking ahead to his next opponent, added: “Novak’s Novak. It’s tough. I said it on court, he’s gotten me seven times. There’s no one on Tour that has any kind of a record like that against me, so I’m hoping one of these times I’ve got to get him. US Open quarters would be a pretty good time to get him.”

Djokovic, countered later following his own win: “Taylor has been an established Top 10 player for the past couple of years and he’s been playing some terrific tennis, particularly on home soil in hard-court tournaments here in the States,” he said. “He’s improved so much over the years. Obviously, the matches will only get tougher from here onwards, and I’m ready for the challenge.”

The Serbian’s form is currently – and by his standards – below par but like all champions, he does enough to win as he showed when taken to five sets in the third round by his compatriot Laslo Djere.

Against Croatia’s Borna Gojo, he was extended over two-hours and 26-minutes for his 6-2 7-5 6-4 victory and reach his allotted quarter final place for his 13th appearance there.


Novak Djokovic shakes hands with Borna Gojo , his fourth round victim

(Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

“I knew that Borna had a big game, even though we hadn’t faced each other at the tour level,” Djokovic said. “I was watching him play qualifying and also the last couple of rounds of the main draw and I saw that he has big weapons with his serve and forehand and that he moves pretty well for a big guy. One of the keys to the match was to neutralize his serve, try to reduce the number of aces and winners from that shot.”



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